India will come out of the COVID-19 crisis that has impacted the entire world with flying colours, Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen has said, asserting that the 21st century is "India’s century".
Renjen said the Indian government has performed well in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is India’s century and I'm convinced about it,” the 60-year-old prominent Indian-American business leader told PTI in an interview.
"I am certainly a little biased given my (Indian) heritage but I'm actually convinced that this is India’s century because of just the raw talent that exists in India, the number of people that comprise India, the democratic tradition that has been around for 75 years,” he said.
Observing that the pandemic impacted everyone, Renjen said the pandemic impacted India very hard, given the lockdown that the government had to put in place, given the size of the population and what the virus potentially could do to India.
The Rohtak-born Indian-American CEO, who has been heading Deloitte since 2015, described as “remarkable” a recent report from the International Monetary Fund which projected 12.5 per cent growth rate for the country.
“Nobody can say with precision, but I really believe that India is going to come out of this pandemic growing at the fastest rate;… definitely the fastest large economy,” he said.
“I think the recovery is going to be very strong. The fundamentals (of Indian economy) are there and I'm very bullish as is Deloitte on India,” said Renjen, also a member of the Deloitte Global Board of Directors.
This was a very unpredictable virus. India is a country of 1.3 billion people and there are communities in India like Dharavi in Mumbai that are highly congested areas, which are really prime areas for the virus to spread, he said.
“Given all of those conditions, I believe that the Indian economy, the Indian people have weathered this as well as they possibly could,” he said, adding that, however, there have been difficult times but that is not just unique to India.
“It has been very difficult here in the United States. It's been difficult in Western countries. I'm confident and optimistic there with the vaccines in place, some of the learnings that we''ve had in the last year that we can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Renjen said.
When asked about the foreign direct investment in India, he said the foreign investors look at a number of parameters.
"First that look at stable governance. India certainly has that. They look at democratic traditions in the rule of law. India has that. They look at a large consumer base. 1.3 billion people aspiring to come out and be in the middle class or above, India has that in droves. Then it looks at the core comparative advantage. India's comparative advantage of highly talented individuals is second to none,” he said.
Deloitte, which provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, operates in more than 150 countries, with approximately 300,000 professionals. It has 50,000 individuals in India at various centers.
“I've committed that over the next few years, we will hire 75,000 additional individuals. And the reason why Deloitte as an entity is looking at India, is because the talent that exists in India. With all of that, I believe that all the makings are there for this to be India century,” he said.
Renjen said India needs to ensure that the means of doing business in the country are open, that there is an attraction for foreign investment coming to India to invest in sectors that are important not only for India but also for India being the base to serve the rest of the world.
India dominates in terms of vaccine production and there is no reason why the country cannot be the pharmaceutical engine for the rest of the world. India dominates in technology some iconic Indian companies that really operate globally. There's no reason why that can't be expanded, he said.
“And why some of the new things that have come out of the pandemic, the silver linings that have come out of the pandemic - digitization, cloud, the technology-enabled secular growth - why India can't drive those areas? I think this is a great opportunity,” he said.
Renjen was born and raised in India. He moved to the United States after receiving a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to Willamette University. He has served on the board of trustees of Willamette University and was named among the 100 most influential business leaders who have graduated from the schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. In 2019, Willamette University conferred upon him an honorary doctorate.
Considered to be one of the highly influential CEOs, Renjen is a member of The Business Roundtable, The International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, and serves as the member of several not-for-profit boards including at the United Way Worldwide (chairman) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum as its vice-chairman.
He was named an honoree to 2012, 2013 and 2014 National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) “Directorship 100.”